A "lone assassin from the upper echelons" of North Korea's regime would be the most likely method of elimination for the secretive state's leader Kim Jong-un, according to new analysis. The academic study argued it was "plausible" that someone may wish to eliminate him.
Given the excellent security surrounding the "supreme leader" at public events the report by Sungmin Cho in the International Journal of Korean Studies concludes that any assassination would "most likely occur in a non-public situation like a banquet or a secret meeting."
Making it clear that his study "is not designed to advocate the policy of assassination" but rather "an assessment of potential future events within North Korea", the graduate student from America's prestigious Georgetown University said killing Jong-un would nonetheless be "one of the most dramatic possible scenarios for the future of North Korea."
Cho considered four possible assassination scenarios involving the killing of a leader by their own citizens. These included the stabbing of Caesar by Roman politicians, Lee Harvey Oswald's killing of US President John F Kennedy and the Valkyrie plot in which a group of German officers tried and failed to kill Hitler with a bomb.
But he suggested the most likely to succeed was what he called the Kim Jae-Gyu scenario, named after the head of the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency, who assassinated his country's president Park Chung-hee in 1979.
"Powerful figures of the top leadership can have their own weapons and they can gain access to Kim Jong-un more easily than ordinary citizens," he said. He added that if the assassination ever occurred it was most like to be carried out by one of those top officials who could approach their leader "at close distance in a non-public situation where the normal intensive screening process is loosened."
The research paper also pointed out there had been attempts on the life of his predecessor and father, Kim Jong-Il. Cho said: "Regardless of its specific type, in the broader context, the assassination of Kim Jong-un is highly likely to trigger chain reactions at all levels from a coup d'etat to mass uprising at a fast pace."
Were such an incident to occur the US and South Korea "should undertake a bold and swift intervention rather than a prudent and gradual approach in order to avoid the worst outcome of North Korean weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands during a civil war," he said.
The pariah state is known to have nuclear capabilities. It was widely condemned following a 6 January nuclear test, and a satellite rocket launch in February that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.
Cho also speculated the furious backlash by Pyongyang to the Hollywood comedy film, The Interview, was that it had "the potential to inspire assassins" inside North Korea. The regime promised "merciless retaliation" to the release of the movie, which depicted the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and unleashed a cyberattack against Sony Pictures.
The company was left been reeling from multiple embarrassing and financially damaging leaks following the attack against its systems in November 2014.